Politicians and the media are fanning a backlash against refugees and demanding more security measures after a horrific series of killings in Germany and France.
But more harassment and restrictions on Muslims, migrants and refugees will only compound the bitterness that leads to attacks.
Many have blamed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow refugees from Syria and elsewhere into Germany last year.
Horst Seehofer, the Premier of Bavaria, the state where the attacks took place, declared that the, “policy of open borders cannot be tolerated anymore”. But both of the asylum seekers involved in attacks arrived before Merkel declared all Syrian refugees were welcome to remain in August last year.
He called for speeding up deportations of asylum seekers, including sending them back to war zones like Syria.
Armin Schuster, the federal homeland minister from Merkel’s party, backed this saying Germany needed a “farewell culture” to deal with asylum seekers.
But just one of the asylum seekers involved in these incidents arrived in Germany over the past year, out of one million people. Every asylum seeker in Germany should not take the blame, or face new punitive restrictions, for the actions of one man.
Bavaria, the German state where three of the four attacks took place, has pledged to recruit thousands more police and increase the surveillance of Muslims in response to the attacks. This will only further marginalise migrant and refugee communities.
In France, this approach has failed to work. Despite a three month state of emergency declared by President Francois Hollande, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a truck to kill 84 people in Nice, France on Bastille Day in July.
Nice already has some of the toughest security controls in France. Regional president Christian Estrosi boasted last year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks that if Paris had had the same measures, the attackers, “wouldn’t have gone three blocks without being neutralised”.
As a result the Muslim community is under siege, from both police harassment and widespread racism. This, along with the escalation of Western bombing and wars in the Middle East, only feeds terrorism.
In response to recent attacks in France, Hollande has only escalated his rhetoric, saying “We have to wage war, by every means”.
Despite the rhetoric about the threat of “radicalisation” and Islamist ideas, the most serious attack in Germany in recent weeks had nothing to do with Islamic State.
A mass shooting where nine people died in Munich appears to be a racist attack. The attacker, Ali David Sonboly, was obsessed with mass killings and spent a year researching them. He staged his attack five years to the day after Anders Breivik’s mass shooting in Norway, and apparently took pride in the fact that he shared the same birthday as Adolf Hitler, according to police. Sonboly apparently boasted to friends that his Iranian heritage meant he was “Aryan”, and his victims were all migrants—three from Turkey and three from Kosovo.
Another stabbing in the German city of Reutlingen, where a refugee killed one woman and injured two others, had no link to terrorism, according to police.
In two other incidents the attackers did express support for Islamic State. But these were not attacks directed or organised by a terrorist group, or clear examples of ideological “radicalisation”. They were the actions of two individuals broken by their experience of war and personal tragedy—as well as the already brutal treatment of asylum seekers arriving in Germany.
In the first, an asylum seeker injured five people with an axe and a knife during an attack on a train, two seriously. He apparently became withdrawn and agitated after a friend was killed at home shortly before he staged his attack.
A week later, a Syrian refugee blew himself up outside a music concert in Ansbach, injuring 15 people.
He was rejected as an asylum seeker in Germany, not because he did not deserve protection but because he had registered first in Bulgaria, and had to remain there under EU rules. Both his wife and children were killed in Syria when his house was bombed.
The German government accepted it could not send him back to Syria, but had scheduled him for deportation to Bulgaria. His deportation was suspended after he committed suicide twice and was placed under psychiatric care. Yet the German government notified him of another date for his deportation just before his attack.
In a video, he blamed Germany for assisting the bombing of Syria, saying, “your planes that are shelling us don’t distinguish between men, women and even children.”
It is the turmoil Western intervention has created in the Middle East that drives people to terrorism, as well as harassment and racism against Muslims and refugees in the West. It is only ending these policies that can address it.
By James Supple